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Halkitis: No Way New House Of Assembly Will Be Built This Term

Michael Halkitis

Michael Halkitis

Reader poll

A select committee has recommended pay rises for MPs and a new Parliament building, to be completed in this term. Do you agree?

  • Yes, there should be a pay rise and a new Parliament building 2%
  • There should be a pay rise only 2%
  • There should be a new Parliament building only 2%
  • There should be a new Parliament building only, but not right now 15%
  • There should NOT be a pay rise OR new Parliament building 79%

173 total votes.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

MEMBERS of Parliament have not put forward a motion to have their salaries raised, State Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis emphasised yesterday as he also added that in his view, “there’s no way” a new House of Assembly building will be constructed this term.

His statements come a day after reports that a parliamentary select committee recommended that the salaries of MPs be reviewed and that a new Parliament be constructed this term drew fierce criticism from residents who said that given the country’s current fiscal challenges, it is not prudent to make such recommendations.

Mr Halkitis said it has simply been recommended that raises for MPs be reviewed by an independent body, without interference from government officials. 

“There was no motion put forward for an increase in salaries for members of parliament,” he said. “The suggestion as it relates to salaries was for any review to be referred to the committee that is headed by retired Justice Joseph Strachan, who had a committee reviewing the remuneration of judges and they’re doing some further work now. So the suggestion was that while they’re doing that, they could also look at MPs.”

“What Mr Nottage (National Security Minister) said was that the committee suggested that the issue of parliamentary salaries be referred to the same committee looking at the salary for judges because in my opinion it would not be the ideal situation to have Members of Parliament saying okay, let’s raise our salary to such an amount.

“No, the best way to do it if you consider reviewing the benefits of Members of Parliament is to refer it to a sort of independent committee who can then review the situation, benchmark it against other countries and then come back and recommend to the government that okay, we have reviewed it and this is what we recommend. Then it’s up to the government to say okay, this is what we present to the Parliament.”

Asked if he believes a raise for MPs is needed, Mr Halkitis said he supports a change, adding that all MPs currently subsidise the operations of their constituency office using their personal funds.

He said: “I don’t want to be in a position where I’m talking about my own raise. Mr Nottage’s committee did recognise, for example, that the constituency allowance be raised from $1,500 per month to $2,500 per month. Again there’s some confusion as to what the constituency allowance is as opposed to the $50,000 allocated to MPs for minor works in their constituencies.

“$1,500 is given per month to each elected Member of Parliament to maintain their constituency office, to keep their office open. If you were to calculate, for example, on average you can pay in rent anywhere from $800 to $1,500, depending on the size. If you were to have an employee in there you have to pay the minimum wage for government which I think is $210. Most people pay their employee more so if you’re paying an employee $250 a week, you’re paying rent at $800, that’s $1,100 before electricity, cable, phone, water. Keeping a water cooler in your place so when people come they can have water to drink, cleaning supplies, toiletries, so immediately every MP starts out by putting money into the running that is not adequate.

“What it leads to is different levels of service so depending on the means of the MP, one Member of Parliament may be able to support from his own personal resources a nice big office with two or three employees because you know he can support it. The person who is relying on the $1,500, that constituency gets a lower level of a constituency office.

“Ultimately it speaks to the quality of representation that the constituency would have. I support the change. Every single MP who has an office would tell you that they subside the operations of their office to at least $1,000 per month from their own resources. Some people can do it because of their personal resources, some cannot.”

As for the House of Assembly building, Mr Halkitis said the country has outgrown its current one, though he added that it is unlikely a new building will be constructed this term despite the recommendation of the parliamentary select committee. 

“There’s no way in my opinion you can get a new building in this term anyhow because you have to identify land, you have to do drawings and all of those things, construction. But I think it’s just to sensitise the public that this is where your national business is being conducted,” he said. “It’s a national symbol. We need to address this issue at some point.”

Addressing the press, he said: “I’m sure you and your colleagues would perhaps like to have better facilities for the media other than just the little bench we have in the corner. Maybe if you need to file your stories, a room where you can do it. Right now it’s no way; you have to go and stand outside. Every Bahamian will probably tell you that we have probably outgrown the current facility.

“How do we address it? We can leave it but the building, something needs to be done. When do you do it, do you do it now, do you wait until the economy gets better, that’s the question to be asked. But I think we shouldn’t look at it within the context of, oh, these guys want to build a nice new building for themselves.

“It’s the nation’s Parliament and when you go to other countries’ Parliament and you see theirs you might say we’re supposed to be a leader in so many aspects and this is where our business is conducted.”

Comments

Publius 5 years, 9 months ago

Halkitis clearly believes that everyone is as doltish as he is

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Honestman 5 years, 9 months ago

I would like a brand new car but I can't afford it.

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 9 months ago

Tell these MPs go buy some Chiney brush or Viagra if they want a raise!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

PS .....do they need a raise to take care of the gravy train and the doll houses??????

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birdiestrachan 5 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Halkitis is a very smart man. I do not begrudge them a rise in pay or a new parliament building. but not now the country is to deep in debt. Where will they put the new building and will they destroy the building they have now ..There is a lot of history in that place.

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 9 months ago

Are you actually making a sensible (objective) comment????? Define "smart"......... what is a "rise" ?.......... and what will happen to downtown??? ................ most countries opt to build brand new capitals to run their countries. Why doesnt the government invest a billion dollars in a new capital city for The Bahamas????????? Come on......... . outdo Hubert roads, airports and admin blocks

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

A raise in salary has NOT been earned. These men are not working as representatives of anyone, therefore they deserve no full time pay as representatives of anyone. Most of these guys enter politics for the SOLE purpose of advancing their personal businesses and to have an opportunity to illegally and unethically redirect lucrative contracts to themselves and their shell businesses, legal work, building rentals, cleaning services, paper supplies, accounting services. We would be hard pressed to find two out of these men who devote enough time to even qualify for the 28,000 salary they currently receive, if their salary is increased we should have sworn statements from them corroborating hours worked, what was achieved and review of their bank books to ensure they are not double dipping.

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

I forgot construction. Exactly how many politicians have opened construction companies AND had large contracts awarded in the last 5-10 years

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

Mr Halkitis is trying to pacify the populace by saying this is merely a high level discussion. First of all, NO IT ISNT. In five weeks they will come back and tell us the contract was awarded and work has begun. It was "only" a discussion a year ago when Fred Mitchel first told us how cramped he was. Today when another house member floats the second trial balloon, It is now serious business. Furthermore, it is a disgrace that they even fixed their mouth to debate this in light of the industrial unrest and escalating crime in the country. This government is just wrong. On all levels.

My friend told me of meeting a lady in an establishment this week, she was staring into space, tears welled up in her eyes. When asked what was the problem, the lady said she'd just spent her last 50 dollars at the webshop. THIS WEEK. If the politicians CANNOT SEE what these businesses are doing to THEIR PEOPLE, if they do not realize that more and more of these seedy establishments are cramming into the poorest communities to take the meagre earnings of the poorest of the poor...if the cannot see, have no vision, they have to go!

I have never seen such blatant raping of a treasury in all of my days. As long as politicians are politicians there will always be whiffs of scandal and who awarded who a contract..but the stuff going on now is mind boggling. Buying acres of property from a political affiliate, dredging Bimini seawater, awarding million dollar construction contract to a fly by night construction company, appointing two alleged embezzlers to oversee financial operations, laughing at a "joke" about physically abusing women...in a house submission??!? Buying dilapidated buildings from a friend for millions of dollars

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SP 5 years, 9 months ago

P.M. Christie is as out of touch with Bahamians as Hubert Ingraham was.

The main problem people are concerned about is the threat to the national security of our country posed by Haitian migrants.

Where is the select committee to address this vexing problem? Where is the urgency? What the hell are they waiting for?

PLP & FNM have been procrastinating for 40 years with absolutely no concrete evidence that they even take this matter seriously!

A government that does not understand or address the needs of the electorate is useless.

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 9 months ago

Yep, he is past his expiry date............ but name 5 young political leaders (under 50) who can inspire this nation to assume leadership. The Old Guard is entrenched in the PLP and the FNM is in turmoil............. Bran??????

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

No not Bran. The most dangerous thing I find about Bran and indeed even the current crew is that we have no idea of the persons making financial contributions to them and absolutely no idea of their political agenda. Maybe they don't want the new government to inspect their prices or quality of their overpriced goods too closely, we simply don't know. clearly evident today, the 28sitting members are exercising the agenda of their backers, legalize webshops, hastily approved stem cell research, names on national assets , bridges even, overinflated price purchases of unneeded assets.

Who is the Bahamas being sold to next?

The next government whomever they may be must forced to articulate their vision for: campaign finance reform; an independent anti corruption bureau with assurities on how the body will remain independent, perhaps staffed by senior respected NON-BAHAMIAN law enforcement officials; the education of every single of their nominees on the meaning of bribery, extortion, conflict of interest..not some meaningless manifesto that someone can say "I didn't know" make it clear to them that taking money for awarding a contract is ILLEGAL, giving crown land to a friend or family member is ILLEGAL, awarding a contract to your own business is ILLEGAL and many more. give them clear examples of what ILLEGAL and UNETHICAL means, clearly these people like to play dumb. Make it clear to them that this is not a money making gambit, make it clear what accountability to the people means in real terms.

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Bahamianpride 5 years, 9 months ago

Bran has not presented no ideas and watching his behavior in parliament shows he does not have a plan to change anything. He needs to be schooled and present ideas to the Bahamian people not just politically charge criticism, he needs to show us a plan that's different from the status quo.

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John 5 years, 9 months ago

THE RAINY SEASON IS LIKE 4 WEEKS OLD: Whatever happen to all the frogs ((CAIN TOADS)) that was supposedly invading Western New Providence? . Does the" dropped calls" problem with BTC and 'inaudible calls' seem to be getting worse or what? With all the money BTC/Cable and Wireless claim to have spent upgrading their system why still so many dropped calls? Lets hope its not a money making scheme to milk extra money from the consumer where they have to call a number two, three, four times before then can get a 'barely audible' connection. And what about calls that drop two, three four times before you can complete a conversation.

BTC claims it will make one of the largest dividend payments to government soon. Do you wonder where most of that money will be coming from? They have slashed the commission paid to vendors from 25% to 5 percent. So now BTC is raking in 95% of the bacon (on cell phones) while the vendors are, in most cases, not even making enough to pay for the internet to sell Top Up! Ask your vendor how profitable the business is the next time you buy top up or a phone card. Profitable for BTC! And government and URCA remains silent on this issue. So when you drive throughout the island and see the new bright "Top Up Here" signs, that is where most of the additional ,profits are coming from, some to go to government and the bigger chunk to be exported out the country..and the small man gets nothing! It is better in the Bahamas for everyone else except Bahamians!

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

It's called running a business. They are in it for the profits. You cannot dictate to them what strategy they use to achieve profits other than to say it has to be within the law. If their practices are unethical or subprime, the market will take care of it. One really has to wonder how is it that BTC can pay the government more with 49% ownership than the government reported with 100% ownership and ZERO of John's Phone card vendors to subsidize.

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John 5 years, 9 months ago

Obviously your narrow-mindedness is preventing you from seeing the whole picture: One of the reasons why BTC was 'sold' was so that it could see better synergies and economies of scale, and more purchasing power and therefore operate more efficiencies and generate more profits. That was to be expected. But what wasn't expected that Cable and wireless would completely dismantle its administration here and bring in their consultants in, hopefully with proper work permits to do the work. Then they are about to reduce their staff even more. These options were not available to the government when they ran BTC and so you should not be surprised that they can now deliver more profits. You should also be aware: 1. After spending what they claim was hundreds of millions to upgrade the cellular network there is still the common and vexing problem of dropped calls. whether this is by design or because of a faulty system, the financial benefits to BTC are astronomical. Some claim that dropped calls can be as high as 30 percent. So assume that on one million calls a day 300,000 are being dropped. At a rate of 20 cents a call this amounts to $60,000.00 a day or $1.8 million a month for which BTC is taking Bahamians and others money and delivering no value. TWENTY ONE AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR! So while they claim they have reduced cell phone rates, by virtue of dropped calls alone, the consumer may be paying as much as $1.00 per minute for cell calls or even more! 2. when a call is dropped, the first thing a person does is call the number back. In the main time the party they are calling is also trying to reconnect the call. When this happens one of the calls is inadvertently placed on hold for the duration of the call so both parties end up paying for the call. Double bubble minutes (reversed)! 3 Da udder day (I say udder because the Bahamian public was being milked like two cows!) when BTC claimed they were giving away a car and other prizes. While the prizes they claim to give away amounted to less than $100,000.00, they raked in over $1 million by charging customers to play to win. BTC is now in the gaming business untaxed and unregulated! In fact after this game ran a few days BTC announced that some customers were receiving the trivia questions up to four times a day rather than once. If they answered the questions each time the consumer was getting milked for $10.00 that day rather than $2.50. BTC never refunded this money. Some customers are being billed for phones, vibe modems and internet boxes they have returned years ago. Because it is just a small fee to each customer, many don't bother to get it removed. but when it is happening to thousands of customers imagine the revenue! ..

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John 5 years, 9 months ago

So why are you so surprised that They have increased the profits to government. What should concern you though is how this company is allowed to rake in so much millions and not deliver value to its customers. And it should bother you even more that most of this money is leaving the country

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

Hmm seems like we agree on both of your points. CWC came in and streamlined a heavily over staffed institution. The markets will take care of their returns if they provide subprime service...does that make you narrow minded too?

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John 5 years, 9 months ago

So is the Bahamian economy better off or worse off after C&W? considering the 'overstaffed' workers were all Bahamians and all the money stayed in the Bahamas. And what do you say is the reason for the sudden increase in dropped calls, that they are obviously in no hurry to fit. There is markets that you refer to. Remember BTC is a monopoly so they reign supreme.

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ThisIsOurs 5 years, 9 months ago

The Bahamian economy is worse off because of a GLOBAL recession and a financial market collapse. Have you seen the number of banks pulling up stakes over the past two years? I doubt they left because of poor cellphone service. CWC is not to blame for the state of our economy, I'm not a technician I can't tell you why the dropped calls increased, I'll guess at a mix of old and new technology but as I understand it many customers are switching to revoice specifically because of the dropped calls, that is the market I'm talking about. Soon to be expanded if there is no interference

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John 5 years, 9 months ago

The global recession was in effect five years before Cable and Wireless came to the Bahamas. But what I was really asking is, was the Bahamas better off with BaTelCo operating, and despite all its inefficiencies, turning a profit, having service equal to or slightly better than C&W, hiring up to three times more Bahamians, sharing its revenue with its phone card and top up vendors, allowing private Bahamian stores to sell phones, without scaring the public and telling them if you buy your phone from anywhere else other than BTC, your phone may not work, and keeping all the profits in this country than it is now under Cable and Wireless? You should also remember that not every employee that was terminated by C&W will not be replaced. They just will not be replaced by Bahamians as the jobs will be done in Mexico or Panama (call centers for example) where the cost of labor is half.

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Cobalt 5 years, 9 months ago

John is right. BTC is an obvious and total rip off.

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Bahamianpride 5 years, 9 months ago

The problem with the entire situation is the not knowing. Without transparency u cannot get the true compensation package or affiliations of these ministers or any government official. Somebody making $28000 is probably receiving $200000 plus when u evaluate the total benefit package. And because they are not forced to declose all of their associations or provide financial statements this information is ceiled from the public. The President of the U.S and all of its respresentatives would be commiting political suicide if they did not disclose their income and its sources to the public. Without this transparency corruption will continue unchecked.. Furthermore when they are not stealing the money they are selectively funding projects based on political interest or agenda's only. No objective standards are followed in determining priorities for the country which is sad considering the many critical problems that need to be addressed immediately without politics being involved. In the end this request for more money and a new building at a time when most are struggling shows who they care about the most.

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Purcell 5 years, 9 months ago

" independent body, without interference from government officials. " Who are they trying to bullshit?

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TheMadHatter 5 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Halkitis - you know very well that it does not matter whether MPs "put forward a motion" - nothing can come to the floor of the House for discussion without the approval of the Prime Minister.

TheMadHatter

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 9 months ago

We have to get rid of this Bahamian form of dictatorship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is little accountability or oversight of government. Thats why BJ, Shane and others are so brazen, obnoxious, dismissive and condescending towards the Opposition and the media. Reminds me of the "one man band" crew

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John 5 years, 9 months ago

They are breaking down the old buildings and clearing up the site that use to be the old dump on Blue Hill road next National Insurance. Wonder if they plan to build the new parliament on this site...Like they say garbage in, garbage out..

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 9 months ago

So much for Jumbey Village ........ we gat a real reality show going on with Parliament now

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